Golf Monthly's Jake O’Reilly was recently given the chance to spend the day as a European Tour caddie on the bag of Tyrrell Hatton during the British Masters’ Pro-Am, ￼but as he soon found out, there’s more to the job than just working out numbers...
As Tyrrell joined us with a spring in his step, we established a plan of action for the next 45 minutes before our tee time, which included shots on the range and hitting a few putts.
I learned on the shuttle buggy to the range that Roachie counts himself lucky when it comes to Tyrrell’s practice habits. A confessed ‘feel player’, Tyrrell doesn’t like to hit many balls before or after his round, so while a lot of caddies are out on the range for hours, Roachie is normally back at the hotel with his feet up having already got the bag in shape for the next day.
Or occasionally, he’s able to make the most of his list of global contacts, like today, when he’d arranged to take a private tour of Red Bull’s F1 factory in nearby Milton Keynes.
That’s certainly a part of the European Tour caddie lifestyle I could get used to. First up though, I had to get the basics right. Basics like remembering to put the 50° wedge back with the PW and not with the 56° and 60°, which earned me ‘strike one’ on Woburn’s driving range.
My strikes would rack up through the day, each passed down from Tyrrell with a glint in his eye while trying to stifle a smirk, much to the amusement of Roachie, who hung around for the remainder of the round to offer pearls of wisdom and typical Aussie ribbings in equal measure.
The Hatton/O’Reilly partnership officially got under way on the 159-yard 6th, one of the easier holes on Woburn’s Marquess’ course. It’s just as well, as studying a tour yardage book is a bit like reading hieroglyphics.
To give you an idea, the stream of information staring back at you includes the length of the tee boxes, yardages to hazards, humps and run outs off the tee and yardages from trees, sprinklers, bunkers and painted spots to the front edge of the green, each with accompanying elevation changes and distances from the tee.
Computing these numbers quickly and working out the direction of the wind – which was helpfully funnelling in one direction through Woburn’s iconic tall pines but blowing another above the treetops – is a European Tour caddie’s bread and butter, and our player-caddie relationship nearly got off to a rocky start when Tyrrell’s opening tee shot barely clung to the back fringe.
While overseeing a thankfully straightforward two-putt, Roachie talked me though his usual greenside routine, which over the coming holes I slowly managed to come to terms with.
His method starts with laying the bag down on the side of the green nearest the next tee, with the putter handover having already happened on the way to the green. He’ll then follow Tyrrell to his ball and offer to clean it, before tending the flag if needed and taking the putter back once he’s holed out.
Having a simple step-by-step list like this to follow kept me on track, with my calculations speeding up with each attempt and my understanding of Tyrrell’s thought process and carry numbers slowly bedding in.
He wasn’t playing too badly either, which certainly helped keep the mood upbeat, knocking a wedge to tap-in range for birdie on the signature par-5 7th and only dropping one shot between the 8th and the 10th. Heading to the 579-yard par-5 11th I was busy packing the putter away and simultaneously studying a tricky pair of left fairway bunkers in the yardage book. Stood on the tee contemplating whether to attack the dogleg or lay up safely, Tyrrell asked for his towel.
It wasn’t there.
In an instant my calm internal monologue turned to flashing red lights and panic stations. I searched the bag and surrounding tee box in vain, before legging it back towards the 10th, praying it hadn’t fallen to a muddy grave.
It wasn’t where I left the bag moments before when Tyrrell got up and down from a greenside hollow. I started to worry now, questioning my memory. I was sure I used it to clean the putter en route to the tee. I began to retrace my steps back towards the British Masters-emblazoned boarding that hid the 11th tee from view.
As I got closer to the tee I noticed the small gallery was taking a particular interest in my struggle, perhaps sensing they were about to witness a rarely seen on-course sacking. But then it appeared, dangling from the fingers of a solitary arm held out from behind the tee box boarding. At the end of that arm was the body of one Tyrrell Hatton.
I’d been had. Unsurprisingly, the look on his face was not one of remorse, but that of a man stifling a fit of laughter, an emotion shared by our Pro-Am entourage and the gallery who were quickly in on the gag.
If there were any ice left to be broken, it had now been comprehensively shattered. It came at a good time as we embarked down the 11th to tackle a string of testing holes that could easily have seen me fall flat on my face.